There’s nothing like good old fashioned home cooking. The Wildcats fried the Providence Friars, leaving them burnt to a crisp.
Seniors Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston put together a wonderful final performance in front of the Pavilion’s home crowd. Both players were honored with a nice ceremony before the game to commemorate their four years as Wildcats. Hilliard and Pinkston carried their emotions with them into the game, using it as fuel to propel the Wildcats forward.
“I was trying not to lose it. It was just a really special night,” said Darrun Hilliard. “Seeing my mom cry, that is what broke me down a bit. Pressures were running a little high.”
Villanova raced out to a quick 16-4 lead in the first eight minutes of the game. The Wildcats were getting the job done offensively, but really distinguished themselves on defense. Providence struggled to get good shots off and had a hard time with hanging onto the ball. It wasn’t until a layup by Tyler Harris with ten minutes to go in the first half, that the Friars had more points than turnovers. Thanks to Harris’ basket, Providence trailed 18-8, while tallying six turnovers at that point in the game.
“They did a decent job and I don’t think we did a good job,” said Providence head coach Ed Cooley. “We turned the ball over. I think they scored a quarter of their points on turnovers, where we haven’t turned the ball over like that.”
The Wildcats continued to ride the momentum created for themselves on the offensive and defensive ends of the basket. A 6-0 run capped off by a pair of Kris Jenkins free throws, gave Villanova a 34-18 lead with 2:17 remaining in the half.
However, the Friars did not go away. They regrouped and came together to slowly fight their way back into the game. A three pointer by Ben Bentil got the ball rolling. They added in a couple of baskets to cap off a 7-0 run before halftime. Villanova had a 34-25 lead at the break.
Providence’s LaDontae Henton got the second half started with a three pointer. Henton, the Big East’s leading scorer, was kept in check throughout the game. Not only was Villanova’s defense forcing turnovers, but also limiting the effectiveness of Henton and Kris Dunn. A few minutes later, a tip in by Junior Lamomba cut Villanova’s lead down to six. It would be the closest that Providence would ever get to Villanova.
The Wildcats commenced an onslaught of scoring. Villanova let loose a three point barrage that resulted in an exponential growth of their lead in a matter of minutes. When they weren’t making their shots from beyond the arc, the Wildcats got the job done at the free throw line. Tonight’s game marked one of Villanova’s better free throw shooting performances. They were 26-for-31 (83.9%) from the charity stripe. With Villanova heating up on offense, it proved to be a dangerous combination when mixed with its impeccable defensive effort. The Wildcats embarked on a 25-6 run that would be too much for the Friars. Darrun Hilliard accounted for 14 of the 25 points during the Wildcats’ hot streak.
“It is just a testament to my teammates, I give all the credit to them,” said Hilliard. “They found me, they got me the ball. All I had to do was the easy part – shoot the ball.”
Pinkston wasn’t doing so badly himself. He was the only other Wildcat to supply double digit scoring figures in the second half. The senior forward had exactly 10 points. The lead was too great for Villanova to lose and for Providence to overcome. At one point in the game, the Wildcats were able to stretch their lead into the thirties. Everyone on Villanova’s roster got involved in the action. Freshman Phil Booth chipped in the last two points of the game when he made a pair of free throws. Villanova cruised to the finish line, ultimately winning 89-61.
Five Wildcats scored in double figures. Seniors Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston set the tone, leading the way in their final game at the Pavilion. Hilliard had 24 points and shot 6-for-11 from long range. He wreaked havoc on defense, showing off his active hands with four steals. Pinkston finished with 16 points and eight rebounds. He was no slouch on defense either, supplying two awesome blocks that pumped up the crowd. Both seniors received a nice standing ovation when they checked out of the game. Ryan Arcidiacono chipped in 13 points and three baskets from beyond the arc. Kris Jenkins had a solid game off the bench. The sophomore forward had 11 points, eight of which came from the free throw line. Last but not least is Phil Booth, who had 10 points. Booth was a perfect 3-for-3 from the field and made all four of his free throw attempts.
As for the Friars, Tyler Harris led the way with a team-high 18 points. Kyron Cartwright had a season-high 12 points, with four rebounds and three assists to go along with them. Providence’s Henton-Dunn tandem was restricted to a total of 16 points off of a combined 6-for-18 shooting performance. Henton had 12 points and four rebounds. Dunn finished with four points, five rebounds, and seven assists. However, he accounted for six of Providence’s 15 turnovers.
For the second season in a row, the Wildcats are undefeated at the Pavilion. They also clinched at least a share of the Big East Regular Season title. They will most likely have the title all to themselves by the time the season is over.
Villanova improves to 26-2 overall. They will hit the road and head over to Ohio, for a game against the Xavier Musketeers. Tip-off is this Saturday at 2 p.m.
The Wildcats seem to be in good shape for obtaining a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
“I think we have a chance, but we still have a lot of basketball to play to do that,” said Villanova head coach Jay Wright. “We are still trying to concentrate on our regular season. It is hard but that is what we are trying to do.”